To service the U.S. market, police agencies report some Mexican crime groups grow marijuana on public lands in the western US.
As states in the US legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal use, Americans are buying less and less of it on the black market. This trend has caused wholesale prices in Mexico to drop, and have forced the cartels to find new sources of revenue. One of these sources is smuggling high-quality, American-grown marijuana into Mexico for sale to high paying customers.
According to the DEA spokesman Lawrence Payne, Sinaloa operatives in the United States are reportedly buying high-potency American marijuana in Colorado and smuggling it back into Mexico.
“It makes sense,” Payne told NPR. “We know the cartels are already smuggling cash into Mexico. If you can buy some really high-quality weed here, why not smuggle it south, too, and sell it at a premium?”
“The Sinaloa cartel has demonstrated in many instances that it can adapt. I think it’s in a process of redefinition toward marijuana,” Javier Valdez, a respected journalist and author who writes books on the narcoculture in Sinaloa, told NPR.
Valdez told NPR that he’s heard through the grapevine that marijuana planting has dropped 30 percent in the mountains of Sinaloa.
“I believe that now, because of the changes they’re having to make because of marijuana legalization in the U.S., the cartel is pushing more cocaine, meth and heroin. They’re diversifying,” Valdez says.